3. Brr it’s Chile! Puerto Varas & Mendoza

Welcome back friends (narrator voice from Jane the Virgin; thanks to Tash for our current TV obsession!). On pretty much a daily basis for the past two weeks our conversations have gone as follows:

  • Me: Brr it’s chilly
  • Liv: No, it’s Argentina

and so just to break this cycle we crossed over from Bariloche (Argentina’s lake district) to Puerto Varas (Chile’s lake district)…the lengths some people go to just to be right!

On crossing the border, we discovered three things:

  1. Chileans don’t pronounce the “s” at the end of any words…explains the confusing bus driver look when we insisted we were going to Puerto Varas
  2. At 850 Chilean pesos to the pound we felt like millionaires casually carrying bank notes worth 20,000
  3. Chile has gluten free bread! This was extremely exciting after 2 weeks of rice crackers aka air, and the best we found was the Nutrisa No Glut range.

We checked into the Hostel Melmac Patagonia which was clean, homely and came with a great wood burning heater as well as free beer on tap. Much to the surprise of the owners, we were the first Brits ever to not make use of this, opting instead for a delicious Chilean red wine to acompany our kosher attempt at a Pastel de choclo: Chilean corn pie.

Following a relaxing Shabbat, we ventured to the small town of Frutillar, known as the city of music, to do some exploring. 

It sits on lake Llanquihue (the largest lake entirely in Chile), and the German style wooden buildings display it’s original roots as a German colony. Along the black sandy beeches, several small streams feed water into the lake and (Liv’s favourite part) when attempting to jump over one, I may have slightly misjudged the distance…

Thankfully, the theatre coffee shop provided us with delicious coffee, wifi to FaceTime Libby, and warmth to dry out a sopping wet foot.

With our last day in Puerto Varas we headed to Volcan Orsorno, one of the most active volcanos in the southern Chilean Andes. With just a few hours before our overnight bus departed, we hiked the 6k to the viewpoint and managed to get some great photos along the way.

After a VERY long wait at the border crossing (highly recommend flying to avoid this as our “6 hour” journey turned into 9), we made our way to Mendoza, where both Remis were very excited to sample the wine and olive oil that this region is famous for. We stayed at the Chill Inn hostel which, contrary to it’s name, was delightfully warm although very noisy, and distinctly average. 

We started our tour of the wineries at Bodega (winery in Spanish) López; one of Mendoza’s largest. They can produce ~10,000 bottles an hour and to repay the country which provided so much to the immigrant founders, only 5% of it is exported.  The wine was tasty, cheap and they even had a bottle the same age as me (and just as mature). 

The last bodega we visited was Familia Cecchin; an organic winery in Mendoza. They use no pesticides but instead have fruit trees as decoys to protect the vineyards from birds, herbs to repel the insecs, and horses plough the fields. Whilst we didn’t love the fruits of their labour (pun intended) but still managed to finish all the samples. 

The most exciting part was the visit to the olive oil factory which smelled incredible the moment you step foot onsite. 

Whilst most people had just a couple of tastes of the different flavoured oils, armed with an entire bag of gluten free bread, Liv and I helped ourselves to seconds, thirds, fourths…well we definitely got our money’s worth! 

The most flavoursome oil is the first press before it’s filtered for clarity and so of course we couldn’t resist buying a bottle #nofilter. We then became the only backpackers in history to travel around with two bottles of olive oil…can’t waste the good stuff on cooking! 

After such a tough day of drinking wine and eating delicious food (it’s a hard life!), we thought we’d treat ourselves to a relaxing day at the Parque de Agua Termal aka Thermal Park. 

The park has a range of different temperature pools both inside and out, as well as a slightly odd dress code… 

If anyone can explain why thongs are OK but shorts aren’t, please do enlighten us! All that was left to do was tuck into some kosher steak (thanks Chabad), drink some more wine, and prepare for another boarder crossing back to Chile, although we soon found out how unprepared we were for this… 

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